UFC 181 Matuchups
A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 181 today at Mandalay Bay Events Center:
Johny Hendricks (16-2) vs. Robbie Lawler (24-10, 1 No Contest)
■ CLASS: For welterweight title
■ LINE: Hendricks minus-220
■ STORYLINE: The first fight between the two was extremely entertaining. It also was close. Hendricks had success early, but Lawler dominated the third and fourth rounds. Hendricks stemmed the tide enough in the fifth round that a late takedown convinced the judges to give him the round and the title. Hendricks had surgery to repair a torn bicep soon after, an injury he maintains he suffered before the fight, limiting much of his ability to mount an attack. Lawler has become increasingly annoyed by the claims. Hendricks seems to think he will have an easier time taking down Lawler now that his arm is fully functional. He even might be overconfident at this point. Lawler found something that worked well in the middle of the first fight, and he has looked good in two bouts since as Hendricks was sidelined. Lawler is an old-school veteran who will go back to what worked. He might not win, but there is a great amount of value with the underdog.
■ PICK: Lawler by fourth-round knockout
Anthony Pettis (17-2) vs. Gilbert Melendez (22-3)
■ CLASS: For lightweight title
■ LINE: Pettis minus-275
■ STORYLINE: It might be risky to predict a finish since neither fighter has been stopped in a professional fight. Pettis is an incredibly dynamic athlete. If Melendez is ever going to be finished, this will be the night. Pettis has so many ways to win a fight. The way to neutralize him is to try to take him down and hold him on the mat for as long as possible. Clay Guida laid down that blueprint in 2011. Pettis has been on a tear since, and he likes to point out that fight was a long time ago. He knows what every opponent’s game plan is going to be in every fight, and he’s well prepared. Pettis spends almost every day in the gym with Ben Askren, who might be the top wrestler in mixed martial arts.That should enable Pettis to dictate where the fight takes place.
■ PICK: Pettis by third-round submission
TRAVIS BROWNE (16-2-1) vs. BRENDAN SCHAUB (11-4)
■ CLASS: Heavyweight
■ LINE: Browne minus-350
■ STORYLINE: Schaub is a former NFL player who has taken full advantage of his athleticism to build his all-around MMA game. This, however, might be the first time he is at a disadvantage in that department. Browne, at 6 feet, 7 inches, will have a 3-inch height advantage but still might be the faster and quicker fighter. The former junior college basketball player moves incredibly well and has big power. Schaub is likely to try to get the fight to the ground, but it won’t be easy. This could turn into a slugfest, and Browne will be at an advantage. While he has been knocked out once, Schaub has been knocked out in the first round three times. Browne also showed a good chin in taking a pretty thorough beating for five rounds in his last fight, against Fabricio Werdum.
■ PICK: Browne by second-round knockout
Todd Duffee (8-2) vs. Anthony Hamilton (13-3)
■ CLASS: Heavyweight
■ LINE: Duffee minus-325
■ STORYLINE: There’s not much mystery to this fight. The Ultimate Fighting Championship would love to see Duffee, a former super prospect who has endured all sorts of trouble getting his career on track, again establish himself as a contender. He has been given a golden opportunity against a fighter who most likely will engage Duffee in the center of the cage. When he’s right, Duffee is scary fast and powerful. Bettors looking to take a shot that Duffee isn’t completely prepared for his first fight in two years might want to jump on the big underdog price. Should he be ready to go and not let the jitters of a return from a career-threatening illness get to him, Duffee should make quick work of Hamilton.
■ PICK: Duffee by first-round knockout
Tony Ferguson (17-3) vs. Abel Trujillo (12-5, 1 No Contest)
■ CLASS: Lightweight
■ LINE: Ferguson minus-260
■ STORYLINE: On what is without question one of the best cards of the year on paper, this is an obvious candidate for fight of the night. Trujillo is developing as a striker but still has a tendency to start throwing bombs, particularly when he gets in trouble. Ferguson certainly has the capabilities to put him in jeopardy. He’s very long for the division and keeps opponents at bay with powerful strikes at distance and vicious leg kicks. He is a big favorite for that reason, as Trujillo will be at a distinct disadvantage from the outside. This pick is simply based on Trujillo’s willingness to go down swinging. If Ferguson has him in deep waters, Trujillo will start swinging for the fences, and there is certainly a chance he could connect.
■ PICK: Trujillo by second-round knockout
ADAM HILL/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL